Clinton

The Octopus

You’re straining to see over the heads of about a million reporters seeding the White House lawn, but you’re not sure what there is to see. There is a limo parked right up to the curb, and you imagine maybe Monica will step out in her trench coat, like she did last night on TV. Instead, the door to the Roosevelt Room swings open, and Senator Dianne Feinstein steps out. (Or is that Barbara Boxer?) The press octopus makes a lunge for her, but the tiny figure in lavender merely smiles, chirps “See ya later” and disappears into the shiny car.

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Lee's way

Senate Republicans have blocked Bill Lann Lee's nomination to be assistant attorney general for Civil Rights on the grounds that his views are "out of the mainstream." Lee's editorial supporters, including The New York Times, denounce this as a "gross misrepresentation," and before examining his writings, I was prepared to believe them. But based on Lee's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and on his record as counsel to the naacp Legal Defense Fund, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that Lee represents the least nuanced tendencies of liberal racialism.

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Ambassador Feelgood

Over a thousand delegates gathered in early October at the Sheraton Chicago for the fifteenth annual Hispanic leadership conference. The gleaming hotel, towering over the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, seemed emblematic of Hispanics' growing political heft. Speakers at the conference included former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Henry G. Cisneros, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, and Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman.

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The New New Democrats

On a recent October afternoon, Al From, the president of the Democratic Leadership Council, held a press briefing on his new strategy to promote President Clinton's proposal for fast-track trade negotiation authority. The box-lunch meeting took place in the DLC's basement, and the air was thick with martial metaphors. "The fight goes on," From declared, warning that "parts of our party are trying to undermine" the economic prosperity created by the Clinton administration. "The battle is never over," said Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the DLC's chairman seated at From's side. The DLC

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Illiberal Arts

President Clinton is a paragon of bipartisanship and cooperation, at least when it comes to negotiating with Congress over hundreds of billions of dollars worth of taxes and expenditures. But when the topic is the National Endowment for the Arts, which faces another Republican assassination attempt this month, Clinton turns into a determined, almost Churchillian figure. Though House Republicans have repeatedly voted to abolish the agency, Clinton has refused to meet them halfway.

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The Double Man

William Sebastian Cohen was born fifty-seven years ago in Bangor, Maine, the first son of a mixed marriage. Cohen's mother, Clara Hartley, was an Irish Protestant from Aroostook County, one of the poor state's poorest rural backwaters, and she was notable both for her beauty and her independence. "She does not care about public opinion," Cohen once told Yankee magazine. "She dismisses it.

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On a recent afternoon in Washington, D.C., a group of Christian evangelicals and social activists met at the offices of the conservative Family Research Council to watch a short home movie. The twenty-minute film, smuggled out of the People’s Republic of China, depicted Chinese Christians involved in the illegal faith known as the home church movement. The audience watched scenes of hundreds of worshipers at passionate prayer— swaying, chanting—in the caves and fields where they secretly meet.

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Less Is Moore

Republicans were very certain about one thing in 1993. “Three hundred billion in new taxes,” Newt Gingrich declared at the time, “is going to shrink the economy, put people out of work, lower tax revenues.” Op-ed after fearful op-ed echoed this party line: higher tax rates would bring in lower revenues. Of course, just the opposite happened—the economy grew fatter, millions more went to work and revenues soared—and supply-siders haven't had an explanation.

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Upon hearing that I was planning to write about the proposed changes in federal housing policy, a press secretary at the Department of Housing and Urban Development graciously offered me an interview with the secretary, Andrew Cuomo. This was slightly odd. It's usually the reporter's job in these matters to solicit access to the Cabinet secretary and the flack's job to deny it. And I am the sort of reporter who quite properly would be denied; the story I wanted to write, examining public policy, didn't require access to anyone so grand as a member of the Cabinet.

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When President Clinton signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in November, 1993, the South Lawn basked in a bipartisan glow. Designed to overturn the Supreme Court's widely criticized decision in Employment Division v. Smith, which held, in 1990, that the state of Oregon could forbid Native Americans from using illegal peyote as part of their religious rituals, RFRA was supported by an improbably broad coalition of Democrats and Republicans, from Orrin Hatch and Edward Kennedy to the National Islamic Prison Foundation and B'nai B'rith.

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